3 Essential reasons to use Lightroom Range Masks

With every Lightroom update, the overall power of the application increases. This could not be more evident than with the release of their newest tool, Range Masks. The need to create masks in order to create highly refined selections has always been one of the main reasons I had to move an image from Lightroom over to Photoshop to finish an edit. Also, the need to create highly-selective masks targeting very specific components of an image has almost become a standard practice with every image that I edit. When you make global adjustments, you might be effectively correcting one area of your scene, but at the same time you could be negatively impacting another.

This is where having the ability to create a highly-targeted selection to a specific area of your photo is critical. The ability to do all of this under the proverbial hood that is Lightroom is huge! In my opinion, the less I have to bounce an image from one editing software to another the better. So, the more I can accomplish in Lightroom the better.

Focused Local Adjustments

As we mentioned earlier, making global adjustments to an entire image is fine in some situations, but you often need to make refined local adjustments. For instance, you may want to increase the shadows in one specific area of your foreground, but keep the shadow levels unchanged across the remainder of your image. This is where the Lightroom Range Masks tool comes in super handy. With the luminance or color range mask, depending on the scene, you can make a highly-refined selection only targeting the foreground of your scene while leaving the remainder of your image untouched.

Range Masks are a great way to bring out the details and colors in every part of your landscape image while also selectively balancing light and exposure to create natural looking photos.

  • Using Linear Gradient tool with Lightroom Range Mask - Delicate Arch, Utah

    Using Linear Gradient tool with Lightroom Range Mask – Delicate Arch, Utah

  • Lightroom Range Mask for making localized adjustments - Delicate Arch, Utah

    Lightroom Range Mask for making localized adjustments – Delicate Arch, Utah

Balancing Light and Colors

At the end of the day, who doesn’t like options? Adobe was kind enough to provide two different options… a luminance range mask and a color range mask. The luminance range mask utilizes light and tonal separation to create a targeted mask. The color range mask allows you to select multiple color samples to identify the area to apply the mask. Both options are powerful in there own right and incredibly simple to use with just minimal practice. There are certain situations that require the luminance range mask to be effective, other situations where the color range mask would work better, and some situations where either would prove effective.  

  • Lightroom Range Mask for color correction, Banff National Park, CA

    Lightroom Range Mask for color correction, Banff National Park, CA

  • Lightroom Range Mask for color correction, Banff National Park, CA

    Lightroom Range Mask for color correction, Banff National Park, CA

Flexibility

If you’ve used Lightroom, you’re likely already familiar with the different ways to apply the range mask tools. Adobe made the standard local adjustment tools (graduated filter, radial filter, adjustment brush), the method to apply the range mask to your images. It’s nice not having to learn a new application approach. Both the Luminance Range Mask and the Color Range Mask can be applied using any of the above mentioned local adjustment tools.

Lightroom Range Mask example using brush tool, Autumn Waterfalls

Lightroom Range Mask example using brush tool, Autumn Waterfalls

When to Use It

Much like everything in the world of photo editing, knowing when to apply an adjustment tool to an image is almost as powerful as the tool itself. There are situations when the color range mask performs better than the luminance range mask and there are times when the luminance range mask outperforms the color range mask. Sometimes nether works effectively. Situations when neither mask works are few and far between, but it does happen from time to time. Understanding how to identify these situations is key to becoming a range mask ninja. 

Range Masks may seem like a highly technical and overwhelming post-processing tool. But once you try it you’ll quickly become comfortable with the process and I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the results! 

To learn more about range masks check out Range Mask in Lightroom Tutorial on Visual Wilderness. 

About Author Mark Denney

Hi there! Mark Denney here - I’m a North Carolina based outdoor and landscape photographer. My affection for travel, photography and the great outdoors is something thats matured over the past six years. I’ve always been fascinated with camera technology, but the art of photography was something that escaped me until 2012. This is when I discovered the calming zen like meditation that is landscape photography. I’m a naturally anxious person and photography provided me with a channel to encourage patience and a means to slow down. I’ll never forget the tranquil feeling I experienced during my initial attempt at landscape photography. I remember arriving early to my location, setting up my composition and waiting for the setting sun - this was the moment I began to realize what my passion was. The transition time between setting up my shot and waiting for the “good light” to arrive is still meaningful to me as it creates a captive audience within myself and provides ample time to reflect and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all. Outside of the technical and creative aspect of photography, I enjoy teaching the storytelling ability of photographs and encouraging others to not focus solely on the the end result, but to appreciate the overall photographic experience.